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Illinois school district facing lawsuit for sexual abuse of teen

A former Peoria, Illinois, high school teacher who pleaded guilty last summer to sexual abuse of a student and is serving a five-year prison term is now facing a lawsuit over her actions. The suit alleges that responsibility for the crimes, however, extends beyond the teacher. The lawsuit also names Peoria School District 150, school board members, the school, its principal and two other teachers.

The accused teacher pleaded guilty to the state crime "aggravated criminal sexual abuse," and admitted to "sexual conduct" with a 15-year-old. She was also accused of sending explicit texts to the young man and having sex with him inside a classroom. Her plea allowed her to escape a harsher sentence. She originally faced a federal charge of "enticement of a minor."

The lawsuit, which claims that the two had sex outside of school as well, contends that a number of people who had responsibility for the well-being of the school's students did not "properly monitor and control" the 28-year-old arts teacher during the months between Aug. 2012 and Jan. 2013 when the abuse reportedly occurred. Among the specific accusations against the defendants is that the district allowed the teacher to obtain the teen's telephone number. The suit also says that the two teachers named should have at least inquired about why the woman was "spending so much time" with someone who was no longer one of her students. One of those teachers was her roommate.

The full amount of the damages being sought was not reported, but the suit contends that the teacher's actions caused him "emotional distress and harm." This case provides an excellent example of why civil litigation is often pursued for a crime even after a person has been criminally convicted. In this case, as in many, there may be multiple parties who can and should be held responsible for allowing a crime to occur or not reporting it. Whether an Illinois judge and/or jury agree that responsibility for the sexual abuse of this young man lies not just with the perpetrator, but with her colleagues and superiors, remains to be seen. At the very least, this should be a much-needed reminder that those in positions of authority in our schools have a duty to protect students from harm.

Source: Peoria Journal-Star, "Lawsuit says D150 failed to monitor teacher in sex abuse case" Andy Kravetz and Pam Adams, Jan. 29, 2014

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